The issue of gender equality has been one that has evoked passionate viewpoints and opinions for many years. Certainly, in terms of opportunities for women, things have come a long way in the last 40 years.
In the past, it was expected that a young woman would get married and stay home. If she chose to work, it would be because she had to. Further, the job opportunities she would likely have would be restricted to ones that were “acceptable” for females to have. It wouldn’t necessarily be impossible to get into male-dominated fields, but very challenging in many cases.
Today, more than half of new college graduates in the U.S. are women. Additionally, women earn more than half of new graduate degrees as well. This translates into more women entering the workforce. Clearly, things have changed a ton over the years, as there are female breadwinners in households and some women that hold prominent positions in the most prestigious professions in our society.
Things have changed a ton, no question about it.
Or have they?
I ask this in light of a recent conversation I had with my 7-year old, who’s a very bright, friendly, affectionate girl. Her test scores at school are sky high, and she has parents with masters degrees who strongly believe in education.
We were talking the other day about a TV show, where a female character was upset that her boyfriend didn’t buy her a nice enough gift. I remarked that the girl on TV was not very thankful, and that boys don’t always have to buy girls things.
To my surprise, she said that boys are supposed to buy things for girls.
“Why?” I asked.
“Because boys have bigger muscles”, she said, very innocently.
I quickly replied: “Just because boys have bigger muscles doesn’t mean that they’re smarter than girls, or have more money than girls. Girls can do just about anything as well as boys, and can have any job boys can have”
Her response: “Girls seems to be teachers and nurses but they can’t be doctors. The men are the doctors and the bosses at work.”
Hmmm. I think teaching is very honorable, as my own mother was a teacher. Nurses help save lives. Those are great professions, which I’d be fine with my daughter (or son) being a part of. But they aren’t restricted to females, and doctors aren’t only men. And who the heck says that the bosses at work have to be men? As a man, I don’t believe this to be the case at all.
You see, as father, I want my daughter to grow up to be able to be independent and take care of herself. No need to grow up helpless, and expecting a guy to take care of her. I want her to be educated, self-sufficient, strong, and able to survive on her own. In my heart and soul, of course I would do anything in the world to take care of my daughter until the day I’m no longer able to. She’s Daddy’s little girl, and I’m fiercely protective. It’s apparent to all who know me. However, my mind tells me that we need prepare her for adult life, which is the job of a parent. That means teaching life skills and allowing a child – boy or girl – to be able to survive and thrive independently as adults.
Now, if she eventually – and hope it’s a LONG time from now – meets a great guy who’s right for her and she for him, then they can figure out a work/life plan that works for them. If it so happens that the young guy can support her while she stays home to raise kids, that will be their choice. And if that’s what her dream would be, then I’d totally support it. However, life can take many twists, and she’ll need to be able to take care of herself if she has to. I think that stands true whether you have a daughter or a son.
So why, in 2011, are these stereotypes seeping into the minds of elementary school girls?
This isn’t the thought process modeled at home. I think boys and girls can do anything they put their minds to, and both are just as capable of succeeding academically and professionally. There are no preconceived limits on what a girl can or can’t do.
A girl can grow up to be a teacher, nurse, doctor, astronaut, marketer, CPA, lawyer, social worker, journalist, engineer, volunteer, stay at home mom….you name it. Sky’s the limit; it’s up to each girl to follow her dreams. No door should be closed, and they shouldn’t expect any door to be closed. Maybe NFL player or heavy laborer aren’t options:) But not much else.
What are your thoughts on where we are today with respect to gender equality and how that relates to opportunities/expectations for kids?